There were 14 soil and water conservation exhibits waiting for me to judge when I arrived at the Jay County Fairgrounds in Portland recently. For a county fair, that's a large number of soil conservation entries. If your county can top it or did, please let me know? We'll give you the recognition your county deserves.
Why so many entries in Jay County? Remember this was one of the four counties that sponsored the Four-County Expo in eastern Indiana for several years in the 1990's. Ridge-till was tried there, and no-till drills were very hot there at one time.
Kids seem to get their cues as to what's important form adults. If the adults are into shooting sports and work hard with kids, that's what shows up at the county fair- more than 100 shooting sports exhibits in Dearborn County earlier this summer. In this case, the interest apparently traces to Bettie Jacobs of the Jay County Soil and Water Conservation District.
According to those in the know in Jay County, she meets with all the kids in the soil and water project, and instructs them on various topics related to soil conservation. Her enthusiasm must be contagious. The 4-H'ers did everything from interview leading conservation experts in the county to study practices that help save soil, including no-till, to measure the clearness or murkiness of water with what's called a Sechi disk. It's a tool they make themselves to help gauge water quality. The more sediment that's in the water, the murkier it is, and the sooner you can't see the disk as you lower it on a rope into a stream or waterway.
Perhaps the most unique exhibit came from Andrew Wagner, who described the composting process for dead animals on their livestock farm. It falls under independent study in soil conservation. Properly disposing of dead animals is a major component that's important for water quality and maintenance of the environment.
Congratulations to the 4-H'ers who study soil conservation in Jay County, and to their adult leader, Bettie Jacobs, on a job well done!